counterforce lab: academics > taking on big junk

desma 154 winter 2019

word + image: taking on big junk
professor rebeca mendez, t.a. zeynep abes

the concept:

the purpose of the junk battle! is to make something useful and amazing from a pile of trash that originates from one’s own institution. the w2019 class engages with words and images to create compelling messages in public space to raise awareness and to encourage behavioural change towards a more sustainable lifestyle. the institutional junk will be used to create typographic messages to be delivered as sculptures in public space around ucla campus. results will vary, from creating an alphabet, to using multiples as pixels, all from junk found on campus. each student will create and prototype a concept that applies design and lifecycle thinking to upcycle waste material to benefit the zero-waste by 2020 goal. working with the sustainability office at ucla, spaces to display the sculptures within the campus will be identified.

the need:

the university purchases close to a billion dollars’ worth of goods every year, a percentage of which winds up in area landfills. ucla targets a zero-waste goal by 2020. to reach it, we’ll have to change the game. the essential challenge is the same for institutions large and small across the country. recycling alone is not enough. we all need to engage in all the stages for a more sustainable lifestyle: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, and repurpose, where refuse is the most important. for the class, we focus on the ‘repurpose’ stage and through this method to communicate the complete cycle.

art and design can be a force for social change. an important current discourse is around  “sustainist design,” in which ‘sharing, localism, connectedness and proportionality are creating a new agenda for social design,’ and in which design is judged not only for its form and function, but also for its social and environmental impact. as storytellers, designers and artists have an opportunity to contribute to and change the conversation around environmental justice. this class is an opportunity to create a space for sharing expertise and knowledge, and for discussions about institutional waste, our own waste and sustainability.

this is a time when circumstances are calling on everyone to engage, and i believe that we, as creative thinkers and communicators, must respond in the face of prejudice, find our voice, and make an especially powerful contribution to a better society.